In 2015, large commercial trucks were involved in more than 400,000 police-reported crashes on our nation’s roads and highways. Over 4,000 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes. Many other crashes caused serious and permanent personal injuries. Truck safety is an important issue for all drivers. Truck safety is a frequent topic of discussion on this blog. In past posts, I’ve discussed trucking topics such as the medical certification process for truckers, trucker health issues, current highway safety regulations and the danger of distracted driving among commercial drivers.
In the last two decades, our cars and trucks have become much safer. Available designs and technologies have improved vehicle safety for everyone. When it comes to commercial trucking, several available technologies could promise to increase safety significantly. What are a few of those available safety technologies?
Lane Departure Warning Systems
Many newer passenger vehicles contain lane departure warning systems. These systems warn drivers when the vehicle drifts from its lane. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently published a report detailing the impact of lane departure warning systems. According to the IIHS:
Results of the new study indicate that lane departure warning lowers rates of single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes of all severities by 11 percent and lowers the rates of injury crashes of the same types by 21 percent. That means that if all passenger vehicles had been equipped with lane departure warning, nearly 85,000 police-reported crashes and more than 55,000 injuries would have been prevented in 2015.
Commercial truckers often drive extended distances. Because of the long hours and distances, these warning systems could prove especially valuable in situations of driver fatigue or distraction.
Automatic Emergency Braking Systems
Last year, Forbes magazine discussed advances in automatic braking systems. These systems may soon be commonplace in passenger cars. However, large trucks present challenges. According to Forbes:
Although an agreement among federal safety regulators, the insurance industry and automakers will put lifesaving automatic braking systems on most light vehicles by 2022, it will be many more years before large trucks and commercial vehicles, responsible for 4,000 deaths annually, get the same technology.
These new systems – just starting to appear on passenger vehicles – alert drivers that they are about to rear-end a vehicle and automatically trigger the brakes.
The European Union requires forward-collision warning and automatic braking on most new heavy vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway, but U.S. regulators are taking a slower, more cautious approach that will delay the rollout for years.
The Department of Transportation wants to make sure the technology is safe to use in big-rigs.
Several trucking-related safety groups have asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make these emergency braking systems mandatory on large trucks. Why does implementation in commercial trucks present a challenge? The larger size and heavier weight of commercial trucks raises issues of truck stability during braking. Additionally, commercial trucks have more complex braking systems. Still, researchers are hopeful that automatic braking systems can eventually be safely implemented in large commercial vehicles.
Video-Based Onboard Safety Monitoring Systems
These systems use cameras and sensors to monitor driver behavior and performance. A recent article asked the question — Are these monitoring systems for safety or spying on drivers? Others have criticized the technology as beneficial in imposing post-accident liability on trucking companies. These criticisms miss the point. Heavy commercial trucks share the highway with our families and neighbors. The impact of a heavy truck or large bus crash can cause tremendous personal injuries or deaths. On top of the risks, commercial truck driving requires important training and skill. Onboard monitoring systems serve several valuable purposes. First, onboard systems clearly provide an excellent method of helping drivers improve their skills by real-life feedback. What better way to teach drivers than a hands-on, real-life approach? Second, onboard systems allow trucking companies to monitor and prevent a dangerous driver from continuing to operate their truck. These onboard systems can provide a valuable means of improving the skill and safety of commercial truck drivers.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we help people who have suffered a personal injury in a car accident or commercial truck crash. We specialize in preparing these serious cases. We also believe in advocating for safety. Because we believe in safety, we frequently discuss highway safety issues on this blog. We welcome your feedback and discussion. If you would like to discuss any issues, consultations are always free and confidential.